Let’s jump ahead to that frabjous day when the race has been won — you have sold your first book and now it’s being published. But it comes at a terrible price. You now most likely have a disease: First Author-itis.
Oh, a few people escape it, but they are very noble people. I wasn’t among them. For about eight months, I was the center of the universe. Didn’t you know? Haven’t you heard? I WROTE A BOOK! I actually uttered those words at my first Bouchercon, upon meeting a woman, Sally Fellows, who would become a valued critic, dear friend and, eventually, the co-dedicatee of one of my books.
The thing is, I didn’t know I was in the grips of a self-centric fever. It was only when I diagnosed this virus in another writer, someone who went from being insufferable to being adorable in the blink of an eye that I began to put it together: First Author-itis. It reminds me of a scene in a book that I can’t recall just now, in which a child is told: “You have a bad case . . . of growing up.” (A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN? I am sure that Frannie decides that growing up ruins theater for her.)
But the thing is, I’m the one who always says you need an incredible combination of ignorance and arrogance to be a writer in the first place. First Author-itis actually stems from both conditions.
The good news is that it responds really well to heaping doses of reality. There is no better crash course in publishing and book-selling than a first novel. There will be a book-signing that no one attends. Why would they? No one’s ever heard of you. (This will be true of your second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, etc., too.) Friends will say, “I went to the bookstore and they’re sold out of your book. You must be so pleased.” Yes — wait, did they re-order it?
At any rate, you will survive it and, more importantly, your friends, family, editor and agent will survive it.
And if it doesn’t pass? Well, then you’re just an asshole and there’s no cure for that.